|Alcohol sponsors in action sports: yay or nay?|
|Written by Tawni Ricketts, Daily Vidette Sports Editor|
|Wednesday, 22 August 2012 18:58|
Thirst and sports go hand-in-hand, especially when it comes to sponsorships and endorsements. Energy and rehydration drink giants like Pepsi, Gatorade, Dasani, Vitamin Water, Red Bull, and Monster are displayed everywhere in the wonderful world of sports — in TV commercials with star athletes, on skateboards and surfboards, on athletic clothing apparel and in stadiums around the country.
But what’s irking athlete’s agents and fans alike is the minute, yet increasing manifestation of endorsements provided by alcohol and spirits companies, specifically in the action sport industry.
But why? Why is it okay to have a “Beer Man” walking up and down the stands of a baseball stadium, but it’s not okay to see pictures of pro skateboarder Greg Lutzka promoting Black Star Beer, or a photo of the Bud Light Lime surf team, comprised of Freddie Patacchia, Serena Brooke, Sean Moody, and Benji Weatherly?
Maybe it has to do with demographic.
One of the differences between action sports and mainstream sports is the fact that action sport athletes, like boardriders, BMXers, or can become pro at really any age — they enter world-wide competitions, receive money and sponsorships from industry giants like Billabong, Quiksilver and GoPro, and become idols for kids just like themselves.
Skateboarder Ryan Sheckler, perhaps better known for his show “Life of Ryan” and the heartthrob effects he has on females, turned pro at the ripe age of 13, while the young Mitchie Brusco, currently 15, is a big face in the professional skating industry as well.
Surfer John John Florence graced magazine covers and landed sponsorship deals before he even hit the double-digit age bracket.
My point is, you don’t see 13-year-old football, baseball, or basketball players — there’s a hierarchal order that must be followed that prevents kids fresh out of middle school, from joining the big leagues.
In an industry where under-agers are so prominent, I can see where alcohol sponsorships are questioned.
But that doesn’t mean I get it. The 13-year-old skateboarders aren’t being sponsored by the Vodka brand — the athletes who are of age are.
Here’s where we’re at — people can buy booze from the comfort of their seat at baseball, football and basketball games, yet seeing 34-year-old surfer Keala Kennelly endorsing vodka brand Bombora, raises eyebrows instantly?
The nature of the action sport world has always been perceived as somewhat alternative and rebellious — almost as a counterculture. Stereotypically speaking, people assume that those who fall into the “rebellious/alternative” category tend to do things like “party” more than those who don’t fall into that category. Could that be why people are so weary of alcohol endorsements — because they think these athletes are encouraging partying?
Maybe these people think that action sport athletes aren’t legitimate competitors, or that they can’t be serious. Could that be why agents cringe at the thought of alcohol sponsorship — because they don’t want their athlete to be portrayed as a “goof-off?”
Here’s the kicker — mainstream sports have a much greater following than action sports (hence why they’re called ‘mainstream’). So why is it okay when hundreds of boys and girls, ages 12 and under, attend baseball games where they see drunken fights, hear “Beer man here!”, or maybe even get beer spilled on them? The athletes themselves may not be endorsing the sales of alcohol, but the organization is … what’s the difference?
Action sport athletes may be a part of a brand “team,” but they compete individually. If you ask me, allowing beer to be sold at Yankee Stadium, and having Freddie Patacchia endorse Bud Light Lime is one in the same. The Yankees are an entity, just like Freddie P is an entity.
Let’s face it — there’s a stigma that comes with being an action sport competitor. But the beauty of being an action sport athlete — a “rebel” if you will — is the fact that these athletes are going to do what they want to do.